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Want international SEO success in 2013? Invest in localised content now

Eli Schwartz - SurveyMonkeyTargeting international markets is now common practice for many brands, with the opportunities for growth overseas just too big to ignore. With a website in 16 languages, SurveyMonkey is one such company and Online Marketing Manager Eli Schwarz is responsible for all international SEO activity and strategy.

At the International Search Summit San Jose on March 14th, Eli will be sharing his experiences of managing the multilingual SEO program for a global brand and here he gives some insight into his session, as well as the opportunities and challenges facing international marketers.

What is the “big thing” in international search in 2013?

The dearth of quality online content in many non-English languages presents a significant  opportunity for companies that are willing to make non-English content investments. For example, if you were to search for the term “market research survey” in English, you would still see relevant results even on page 5 of Google. If you looked at the German translation of this term, marktforschung umfrage,” on Google.de,  it is arguable if all the results on just the first page are truly relevant.

Many English language brands make the assumption that their international users speak English, and will therefore find them through English search queries. While this may be true, what would happen if these users decided that they are only going to search in their primary language or if a local company began to compete? Eventually both of these events are likely to happen, and an investment in localised translated content now will give any international strategy an advantage in 2013 and beyond.

In your opinion, what are the fundamentals of successful international SEO?

The true fundamentals of international SEO, are very similar to English language SEO: a focus on the user,  quality content, and quality links. The challenge with international SEO is that as a result of not being familiar with the new country/language/culture that we (any SEO) are targeting, we do not know our users, content and links as well as we do in English.  In order to be successful at expanding into another language, it is vital that we “buddy” up with a native speaker. Anyone, even someone who is a complete stranger to the world of online marketing, can help us to better understand the new market. A buddy can help narrow down the personas of users,  choose the correct keywords, and assess local link targets.

Are there any markets you have found particularly challenging to target? And why?

I find any market that does not use the Latin Alphabet to be a challenge. Even if I cannot understand a particular language that I am targeting with a search campaign, as long as it uses the Latin Alphabet I can do all the same research and analysis as I do in English. In non-Latin Alphabet languages, I have to rely far more on others to help me choose the right keywords and strategies.

If you could give just one international search tip, what would it be?

We recently ran an SEO survey using our SurveyMonkey Audience tool, a product which allows people to get respondents for their surveys,  and one of the questions assessed the impact of poor grammar and spelling on user trust. We discovered, as we expected, that there is a significant impact on how a piece of content is perceived when it has incorrect grammar and spelling. While many brands would never think of publishing anything in English without having  every I- dotted, t-crossed, and comma inserted, are they as careful to make sure every umlaut is used in German or acento in Spanish? My one tip is to localise content. Do not just translate. If you go through the effort of translating your site or products, do it right and make sure it does not look amateur to a native speaker.

What will attendees take away from your session?

I am going to go through the process I use to audit existing international campaigns and launch new ones. Attendees will learn how to do keyword discovery and competitive research without needing to actually learn a new language. Attendees should also gain a new understanding of how important closely managing their international SEO campaigns should be in order to avoid localisation gaffes.

Why should people attend the International Search Summit?

While there seems to be content available for every possible tail search term in English, international is the next frontier. International SEO presents opportunities for significant growth, and the Summit will give people ideas on how to succeed far out of their comfort zone.

International Search SummitPasses are still available for the International Search Summit @ SMX West, taking place on March 14th in San Jose, California.

View the full agenda and book your place – saving 10% with the discount code WS-ISS10

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Gemma Houghton

Director of Marketing at Webcertain
Gemma has worked in international search marketing for over 14 years and is Director of Marketing at Webcertain, overseeing all marketing activities for the Group. She also organises and programmes Webcertain's International Search Summit, a search marketing conference focusing on international and multilingual online marketing which runs across Europe and the US. Gemma holds a Professional Diploma in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, a Diploma in Management and Leadership from the Chartered Management Institute, and a BA joint honours degree in French and German.

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